January 5, 2013

Fast Start Leads Men's Basketball Past Tennessee Tech

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - - In arguably its finest game of the season, Belmont University men's basketball defeated Tennessee Tech, 83-52, Saturday night.

Building on positive momentum gained from Thursday night's victory at Jacksonville State, the Bruins showcased unified, unselfish play from the opening tip.

A three-pointer from junior J.J. Mann (Smyrna, Ga.) and a transition basket from junior Blake Jenkins (Knoxville, Tenn.) got Belmont off to a 5-0 lead, and the Bruins would not look back.

After an interior basket from Terrell Barnes, Belmont simply locked the Golden Eagles down – holding the hosts without a field goal for the next eight minutes in the most inspired run in recent memory.

As the Bruins strung together defensive stops with contested shots or forced turnovers, Belmont parlayed that into free-flowing offense and high percentage shots.

When the dust settled, six different Bruins had scored and senior Ian Clark (Memphis, Tenn.) punctuated the spurt with back-to-back deep three-pointers to make the score 26-3 with 10:31 left in the first half.

Jeremiah Samarrippas tried to spark Tennessee Tech, but the Bruins were more than willing to run with the Golden Eagles. The Bruins scored 10 more points in a 90 second span behind baskets from Jenkins, Clark, Mann and senior Kerron Johnson (Huntsville, Ala.) to push the margin to 36-11 with 6:14 left in the half.

Then after a baseline three-pointer from Lanerryl Johnson, Belmont unleashed another 12-0 run behind five Clark points and another Mann three-pointer to make the score 48-16 with 2:54 left in the half.

Though Jud Dillard led a Tennessee Tech reply, Belmont led 51-24 at halftime.

Belmont shot 63 percent (20-for-32) from the field – including 9-for-14 from three-point distance. The Bruins had 16 assists on 20 made field goals and outrebounded the Golden Eagles, 20-11. Belmont also forced 10 first half turnovers.

Clark and Mann each 14 points points at halftime.

In the second half, Belmont remained focused and poised, holding Tennessee Tech scoreless the opening 2:22.

With Johnson running the show, Belmont strung together made three-pointers from Clark, Mann, and sophomore Reece Chamberlain (Goodlettsville, Tenn.) to lead 70-34 with 11:24 left.

Senior Brandon Baker (Milford, Ohio) and Mann added interior baskets to provide the largest margin.

All told, Belmont shot 56 percent (32-for-57) from the field – including 13-for-25 from three-point distance. The Bruins held Tennessee Tech to 33 percent shooting.

Mann led three Bruins in double figures with a career-high 21 points. He added four steals, four rebounds, and three assists. Clark had 19 points, six assists and three steals, while Jenkins added 10.

Johnson had eight points, 10 assists, three steals and zero turnovers.

Dillard led Tennessee Tech (6-9, 0-3 OVC) with 21 points.

Belmont (11-4, 2-0 OVC) returns to action Thursday, Jan. 10 against Southeast Missouri. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CT from the Curb Event Center.

The live play-by-play of Voice of the Bruins Kevin Ingram can be heard on the Bruin Sports Network. Live video streaming will be available via the OVC Digital Network. In-game updates will be provided via Twitter @BelmontMBB.

NOTES: With 19 points, Clark passed Adam Mark for third place on the Bruins' NCAA era career scoring list...Clark has 1,576 career points ... Johnson recorded his second career double figure assist game ... Belmont recorded its first victory in program history against Tennessee Tech ... It was the first meeting since 1998, and only second of the NCAA era ... Belmont has won seven of its 11 games away from home.